The Philippines is home to more MMA fans than any other country in Asia, apart from Japan, and why the UFC decided to go to Macau first is a mystery. Fortunately for the Filipino MMA fans, ONE FC has stepped in to fill the breach with the biggest and best show the country has ever hosted.
ONE FC "Pride of a Nation" is going down on August 31st and anyone who is suffering from UFC overload after the crazy recent schedule of mediocre cards should check it out because it has got some of the top fighters from Asia, Australia and South America.
Dream lightweight champion Shinya Aoki, who has been the top pound-for-pound fighter in Asia for as long as I can remember, is still waiting for an opponent, as is former Strikeforce middleweight champion and UFC veteran Renato Sobral.
Former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski knows who he will be fighting, top Australian heavyweight Soa Palelei who has won his last seven fights. Arlovski has won his last two fights but Palelei is a top quality fighter and this will not be an easy fight for 'The Pitbull'.
Dream bantamweight champion Bibiano Fernandes has also been handed a very difficult ONE FC debut against CFC bantamweight champion Gustavo Falciroli. The Brazilian born fighter was selected to appear on TUF: 'The Smashes' as a lightweight but didn't get his Australian citizenship through in time and is much bigger than Fernandes, who was last seen winning the Dream bantamweight grand prix on new year's eve.
The fourth Australian (if you count Falciroli) on the card is 16-1 heavyweight Tony Bonello who is taking on Rolles Gracie. There are three Gracies on the card which must be some sort of record, and none of them have been given easy fights.
Gregor Gracie goes up against Nicholas Mann, an Australian who lives in the Philippines and has a 4-1 record while Igor Gracie has been matched with 8-6 Korean Jung Hwan Cha. Mann is the URCC light heavyweight champion and his fight with Gracie fight is taking place at a catchweight of 80 kgs.
ONE FC "Destiny of Warriors" will have three Filipino fighters but only one of them has an opponent and that is Eric Kelly who will be going up against former UFC lightweight champion Jens Pulver. Kelly is 7-0 and is URCC featherweight champion and Pulver has been doing better lately after some bad results.
There will be two more URCC champions on the card and both are still waiting for opponents. URCC flyweight champion Kevin Belingon suffered the first loss of his career against Masakazu Imanari but is still 9-1 and Eduard Folayang is the most famous MMA fighter in the Philippines but is also coming off a loss to Ole Laursen which saw his record slip to 11-2
Phil Baroni might be in his twilight years but he still knows how to sell a fight and will be desperate for a win when he takes on BJJ black belt Rodrigo Ribeiro. These two trained together at Evolve MMA in Singapore apparently and this promises to be a straightforward striker vs grappler match.
With Babalu, Aoki, Arlovski, Fernandes and three Gracies this could be the best non UFC card ever to take place outside of Japan. It's taking place at the same arena as the Thriller in Manila and ONE FC confidently predict a 16,500 sell out, MMA in the US might be starting to get stale due to saturation but in Asia, fans still can't get enough.